UK - Long-term field trial of BioElectrochemical System Sensor (BES Sensor) for monitoring of Water Quality in real-time

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Natural Sciences & Env Sciences

Abstract

A water quality biosensor will be comprehensively tested in real-world conditions, progressing towards Technology Readiness Level TRL 7 (demonstration in an operating environment at pre-commercial scale). The prototype sensor under development has arisen as a result from previous projects funded by NERC, EPSRC and BBSRC/IUK. Bioelectrochemical Systems (BES) technology, incorporating an electrode-supported microbial biofilm which generates electricity from oxidation of organics, has great potential for low-cost, real-time sensing applications. The magnitude of the electrical current generated correlates with the biodegradable organic loading (e.g. Biochemical Oxygen Demand; BOD) and conversely the signal is inhibited when toxic compounds are present. Using a novel configuration of multi-stage BES sensors developed by Newcastle University, the sensor is capable of measuring an extended BOD range and can explicitly distinguish BOD and toxicity events. The sensor will be used to monitor organic load/BOD and toxicity levels in real-time on wastewater provisioned from a real-world, wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Long-term monitoring data will be collected over one year and used to inform design and build of a combined sensor package, which will propel the technology towards commercial realisation.

Planned Impact

The proposed technology could enable regulatory bodies and companies dealing with wastewater to modernise their existing water quality monitoring schemes, improve operational efficiency and uncover many beneficial commercial and environmental advantages pertaining to real-time monitoring. This project will facilitate translation of this technology developed in the laboratory to field trials conducted in real-world applications.

The main impact from this project will be demonstration of a 'prototype' device capable of near real-time water quality assessment. Advancing to this stage with validated results is the first key milestone required for significant impact, without which the technology will remain a laboratory novelty and cannot be evaluated by interested parties.
Bioelectrochemical Systems (BES) currently have amassed a significant scientific interest amongst research institutions but to date BES technology has been mainly confined to laboratory studies with very few field case studies. In previous trials scaled-up operation has proven challenging and solutions were non-viable. There is therefore an opportunity to create impact by successful application of BES technology towards a sustainable, real-world monitoring solution.

The BES sensor id capable of monitoring biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and toxicity. The sensor is compact (does not require large-scale reactors) but robust enough to cope with continuous reception of a wastewater stream. The sensing system could allow treatment programmes to be adjusted in real-time to match pollution levels, provide early notification of pollution 'shocks' and allow effluents to be monitored for regulatory compliance. By enabling continuous monitoring companies and regulatory bodies could react faster to pollution events, trace sources of pollution along aquatic waterways and ultimately avoid costly fines for non-permitted discharges.

The technology would allow a much greater depth of knowledge to be obtained about water quality which could influence water policies. The technology could be used in the UK and EU to help develop strategies for meeting the requirements of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) regulations. But also on a global scale, water quality is a top priority and as populations and industrialisation increase maintaining good quality water systems and tracing pollution sources will only become a more important agenda. There is scope for exploitation of the technology from simple low-level alerting using essential sensor components (such as in developing countries) up to full, quantified water quality assessment which may be required in sensitive discharge areas or in an industrial treatment setting. This technology innovation will drive adoption by regulatory bodies imposing new policies requiring enhanced monitoring or companies proactively deciding to monitor their waste streams in order to gain knowledge about their processes.

The research will proceed through continued dialogue between end-user partners and they will be included in the project planning process. Developing a new technology from proof-of-concept to prototype stage may generate IP relating to innovations from this project. IP protection for any generated will be reviewed frequently. Following completion, we aim to publish not only in academic journals (e.g. Biosensors & Bioelectronics, Energy & Environmental Science and Environmental Science & Technology) but also in trade journals, to further disseminate knowledge of the technology and its application to a broader audience. We will also engage with NERC, EPSRC, BBSRC, The Royal Society and SCI networks to foster greater public awareness at dissemination events. We plan to hold an event through our existing networks of contacts at DEFRA, EA, water and industrial companies where we will engage and communicate the outcomes of our project. We will liaise with companies to inform, gauge interest and enquire about future field trials.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have shown that a prototype BES sensor developed to measure organic matter in wastewater can be used to detect toxic compounds.

This has been tested with 4-nitrophenol as a model toxic compound. At levels of 4-nitrophenol above 70 mg/l the sensor was able to detect the toxicity.

Mass transport was shown to be a key parameter determining sensitivity and response time

Senor performance was affected by shock loads of toxic compound.
Exploitation Route The sensor could be developed for toxicity detection in a range of settings.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description UK - Long-term field trial of BioElectrochemical System Sensor (BES Sensor) for monitoring of Water Quality in real-time
Amount £94,267 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R009473/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 04/2019
 
Description EU-ISMET 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Newcastle University organized and hosted the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology EU-ISMET Meeting in 2018. Project team members were the meeting chairs and with international partners formed the organisation and scientific advisory committee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://conferences.ncl.ac.uk/eu-ismet2018/
 
Description Meeting with Jason Snape, Astra Zeneca 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting to discuss Astra Zeneca and toxicity sensing in general
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meeting with Shell's Chief Scientist (Jeremy Shears) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Discussions with Jeremy Shears (Shell Chief Scientist) on:
Bioelectrochemical systems for low carbon fuels and the LifesCO2R project
Energy from waste
Oil and Gas related research
Newcastle University industrial collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participant in Bio Electrical Engineering (BEE) Workshop, University of Warwick 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral Presentation "Resource recovery from wastewater with microbial bioelectrochemical systems" - Ian Head (U. of Newcastle), Session 3 (Microbial electricity and electro-fermentation).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/research/beehive/beeworkshop_program/
 
Description Trade journal article for the water industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Davenport R, Spurr M, Head I, Cherry B. Engineering biology for the circular economy in water resources. Water Industry Journal 2018, 7(June), 50-51.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://issuu.com/distinctivepublishing/docs/wij07/50
 
Description Visit by BBSRC Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy Head of Strategy, Colin Miles 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We organized a meeting on industrial biotech and invited Colin Miles, Head of Strategy for BBSRC Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy, who provided an overview of the BBSRC Research Strategy with a focus on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy. Newcastle University showcased research funded by or relevant to Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy. The event also provided valuable networking time with colleagues across the University. Discussions about BBSRC strategic direction and future opportunities were conducted in a number of break out meetings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018